OCT 16, 2015 04:53 PM ET // BYJASON MAJOR
Cassini finds cracks and craters galore at the north pole of Enceladus.
NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SPACE SCIENCE INSTITUTE
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On Wednesday (Oct. 14), Cassini performed its scheduled “E-20” close pass of Enceladus, a small (320 mile/514 kilometer-wide) moon of Saturn that has become quite famous for the organics-laden geysers firing from long fissures along its southern pole.
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During the flyby Cassini approached within 1,142 miles (1,839 km) of Enceladus, capturing detailed images of its cratered and fractured surface while zipping by at an incredible 19,014 mph (8.5 km/sec).
E-20 was the first of a series of three flybys Cassini will execute before the end of 2015, specifically planned to obtain our best views yet of Enceladus’ north pole, now well-illuminated as Saturn moves toward its summer season.
“The northern regions are crisscrossed by a spidery network of gossamer-thin cracks that slice through the craters,” said Paul Helfenstein, a member of the Cassini imaging team at Cornell University. “These thin cracks are ubiquitous on Enceladus, and now we see that they extend across the northern terrains as well.”
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A “snowman” made of impact craters near Enceladus’ northern pole is sliced by long fractures.